Global Games Jam 2018

One of my New Years Resolutions is to take part in at least one games jam each month. This was a goal I set myself so I could develop more variety of games for the year of 2018. For myself, the games jam of January (and first games jam of the year) was Global Games Jam 2018, taking place on site at Staffordshire University in Stoke-on-Trent.

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I’ve regularly participated at GGJ since 2013 at the Stafford Campus, however in 2016 the Stafford Campus eventually closed its doors and all the departments (Computer Science, Game Development, Web Development, Film, TV and Music etc) were all moved to the Stoke Campus. I skipped 2017 after a lot of regular GGJ attendees were put off by travelling to Stoke and hearing that because of security issues they couldn’t allow overnight stay. Near the end of 2017, one of my friends asked if I was interested in going since she was going as well, so I thought “Sure, why not?”.

Stoke Campus has improved a lot since I went there on rare occasions as a Student, and GGJ became a lot more organised on that site. Gone were the days where getting a table or a PC being a free-for-all, as people had to get tickets in advance for what kind of room they want, and each room had plenty of machines with the latest software (especially for Unity and Unreal Engine 4 developers). Gone were the days of little to no security or support since all rooms required a badge to get into (all attendees received badges at the start of the day) and the jam had volunteers available to provide support for the entire 48 hours. Gone were the lack of food and drinks on site as free fruit, tea and coffee were available on site, and with both Subway and the University’s Student Union Bar open all weekend and a short walk from the site.

The games jam began with a keynote, featuring tips & tricks from Unity, an ad for the Amazon Appstore, a celebration of 10 years of GGJ, a talk from Robin Hunicke and an 80s style workout video from Thorsten S. Wiedemann. The audience was riffing the whole keynote up until the theme announcement, which was fun and all but I did feel bad for Robin’s talk as she was giving an inspiring talk that was meant to encourage interesting stories and concepts, but the six minutes of nonstop talking with an unchanging shot of the San Francisco Bay Area bored almost everyone.

The theme was Transmission, and the theme announcement segment implied this could be anything from communication, to mechanical to passing one thing to another. Our team consisted of myself, my friend Kira, programmer James and two 3D modellers, Benz and Matt. We came up with the idea of a twin-stick shooter where you move along sound waves. James did an incredible job of generating sound waves visually using vertex shaders and lining up the player position with the line, Kira created a tone generator for the game to use, and I worked on enemy behaviour, management, bullets, GUI and main menus, and we all chipped in where we could to get the game in a finished state. Benz and Matt worked on the in-game models, as well as a nebula skybox. Here is the progress in tweets:

So we managed to finish with about an hour or two to spare, which is very good for us. I hardly post much about what I’ve worked on at GGJ because in most of the events they end up not finished, but this is the third out of five GGJs that ended up being finished. So here’s our game: Formants

Let’s see what the games jam of February will be.

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ThreeThingGame and the Ricoh2DFramework

Between the 11-12th of June, I went up with a friend and fellow Windows Games Ambassador Aaron Smith, along with a games design student Nathan Holding to the University of Hull for ThreeThingGame, the University’s 24 hour games jam. The premise is that each team was provided three words, and were tasked with making a game that incorporated them. The games would be judged on how well they fit the three things, and the quality of the game overall and the winning teams would get prizes.

This was going to be an interesting event for all three of us, as despite being used to travelling around several campuses for events, Hull was way far out for us. We were also aware that the majority of students there had been at ThreeThingGame before and new how it all worked. However Aaron and I were a bit more confident in what we could pull off together since we went through a games jam one week prior, where we learned to have a proper functioning version control system that the tools can work with, as well as having an actual artist working with us this time. Our three words were Room, Moon and Lune, and from that we made a Lunar Lander style space game where you avoided asteroids and landed on moon bases.

We also had an additional tool to work with, my Ricoh2DFramework. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before on this site, but the Ricoh2DFramework is a framework for MonoGame. The purpose of the framework is to provide classes to assist with graphics, collision, input and audio among other functions. I was actually quite eager to use Ricoh2D in a game development project to see how well it works practically.

Game Development went rather well, and while there were some small issues found in the Ricoh2DFramework, they were easily fixed and all of those changes have been uploaded to the Ricoh2DFramework’s repository. There were also some performance issues that required some work arounds in order to avoid (slow downs, glitches and crashes galore), but in the end we finished the game.

What went right:

  • Proper source control: Using C# and MonoGame with Github is much better than the last games jam at Stafford, where we tried to use Unity with Git. Overall it was a nightmare back then to merge all the changes and ensure the project work. Using a system that is completely text based and readable made the process much more easier.
  • More prepared: Using the Ricoh2DFramework definitely saved some time in developing the game, and even though the framework had issues they were much quicker to deal with instead of having to build everything up from scratch.
  • Having an artist: Definitely enables the team to work on the game while assets are being created, instead of having to be made during or after development where issues can arise.

What went wrong:

  • Didn’t sleep enough: All three of us, me especially, thought we could spend the entire night working on the game. We didn’t. I could barely stay awake after literally staying awake for 24 hours, even with an abundance of food, drink and snacks to help us keep our energy.
  • Technical issues: While some performance issues were most likely due to some of the original code that was developed for the game, we also had numerous unexplained crashes from Microsoft and SharpDX libraries. This was especially bad when the game crashed unexpectedly with an unhandled exception while judges were looking at our game. This could’ve been one of the reasons why we didn’t get a place in the rankings, but since we were still using the Technical preview, hopefully issues would be ironed out afterwards.

Overall, I rather enjoyed ThreeThingGame. It’s a neat idea for a games jam and everyone at the University of Hull was very enthusiastic and eager to make games, which makes it even more impressive as the University doesn’t have a specialist games course unlike Staffordshire University.

Now it’s back to the Procedural Level Editor and my newest game project Gem Finder, where I’ve already started on new features…

University Finished

Hey everyone, sorry it’s been a while, but for the last few months I have been incredibly busy with University work, plus I have had some technical difficulties which I’ll explain further later on. However, the good news is that it’s all finished!

That’s right, all of my remaining assignments, which includes one mobile game written in MonoGame, one PC game developed in Unreal Engine 4 with a full game development team of artists, designers and other programmers, my thesis on Procedural Content Generation to Create Levels in Games, and the combination of a Procedural Level Generator, Procedural Level Editor, and 2D Tilemap Shooter which makes up my dissertaion artefact, were all finished in time to make up my full University degree!

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Global Games Jam 2014 Quick PostMortem

For another year, Global Games Jam has ended, and what a time was had at Stafford Campus during the event. After 48 hours of work we were able to pull off most of what we had hoped and it’s time for me to give you my report. I will explain what happened, what problems were faced and what we produced.

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LAUNCH Conference 2013

So I mentioned last week that I was going to LAUNCH Conference 2013, as well as being short listed for the Best Portfolio LAUNCH award (see here to show I wasn’t lying). Now that it’s been over for some time, I figured I shall write about it.

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